Get your career going up and to the right with the power of compounding growth
Over the last year I have spent a lot of time with students and I get asked a lot why I would categorically choose to work at a start-up over working at a larger company. It comes down to the power of compounding growth.
Personal fit, work environment and passion all matter, but the biggest thing is climbing the corporate ladder is hard (really hard at Amazon). And, the problem with choosing to climb the ladder is that the nature of a ladder is a linear path to a well defined top. At a start-up initial progress can be harder because there is little to no structure and you have to make it up as you go, but there is also no ceiling.
When I started at AND 1 I was a marketing intern and I spent the first week organizing a storage closet full of shorts and T-shirts. The company did not sell shoes and was doing single digit $millions in revenue. 36 months later I was the creative director of the footwear department and we were selling close to $200 million in sneakers all over the world.
I got really lucky in a lot of ways, but one thing was strategic — I chose to pursue a path that offered compounding growth. I moved from the bottom of an established marketing department to the first (and only) junior person in a brand new footwear department. I knew that at NIKE footwear represented more than 70% of revenue and that for AND 1 to be the number one basketball company in the world, we would probably need a similar revenue split. I also knew that the department was being formed around the smartest of the co-founders and that he was moving to asia to make it a success. It was critical path to our success and I could be there from the start.
My personal growth was incredibly steep as I was growing within a department that was growing within the product division that was growing within the company that was growing in a category that was growing in a large market. This is the type of opportunity you should look for in your career — and the earlier you find it, the greater the impact.
Something for another post, but worth noting is the other (and maybe more critical) reason my personal growth was so steep was the founders’ deep belief in an apprenticeship model — the CEO is the one who explained this compounding growth strategy to me as I was deciding if I wanted to be in marketing or footwear- and he remains a mentor and very close friend.